The FilmiGoris differ on their opinion of Akshaye Khanna, with Jenny continually trying to convince Julie of his swoonworthiness and Julie refusing to see him as someone other than an awkward, dimple-chinned hairpiece (although they both loved him in 1997’s Border and Julie loved his over-the-top performance as an Oscar-hungry actor in 2010’s Tees Maar Khan, which Jenny has not seen because it stars her “allergy” Akshay Kumar—another divisive actor in the FilmiGoris’ world). So Jenny has challenged Julie to watch three previously unviewed Akshaye movies of her choice and cultivate an appreciation.
Julie: Mohabbat (“Love,” 1997) starts a run of early films with Akshaye as the handsome hero—and I grudgingly admit that he really is handsome here, with his chiseled jaw, cleft chin and (in contrast to later years) well-behaved hair. Actually, the pool scene kinda grossed me out with all the hair…
In the story, Rohit (Akshaye Khanna) rescues the young, wealthy industrialist Gaurav (Sanjay Kapoor) from a gang attack by beating up the gang leader. The two strike up a bromance, with Gaurav offering Rohit a job in his company and the merry Rohit serving to unclench Gaurav’s somewhat stodgy nature. Unbeknownst to each other, both are in love with Gaurav’s sister’s best friend Shweta (Madhuri Dixit), an aspiring young singer/dancer.
Gaurav’s move is to secretly support her career (yeah, that will get her to notice him), while Rohit sweeps her off her feet with drama, fun and romance. For her part, Shweta treats Gaurav like an acquaintance (gee, wonder why?) but is completely infatuated with Rohit (duh), whom she agrees to marry. Her inattention to Gaurav doesn’t keep him from fantasizing, though.
It’s only a matter of time before Gaurav learns (coincidentally, moments before he plans to reveal to her that he is her secret benefactor) that Shweta the one to whom his best friend is engaged. Recognizing the depth of their feelings and wanting them both to be happy, Gaurav simply walks away rather than confront them.
The very same evening that Gaurav decides to back off, the gang finds Rohit and attacks him, stabbing him in the stomach and throwing him off a precipice right in front of Shweta. Gaurav feels guilty, Shweta loses her voice with the shock, and Gaurav’s sister, learning of Gaurav’s feelings for Shweta, suggests their engagement to cheer up Shweta and make her brother happy. Shweta agrees to marry Gaurav and there is hope that she is finally getting over Rohit, although she still hasn’t spoken. Trouble soon comes in the form of a handsome car mechanic named Tony Braganza (Akshaye Khanna), a Rohit lookalike whom Gaurav hires to try and shock Shweta back into speaking…but will the ruse actually work? and why is Gaurav suddenly getting dizzy spells?
Madhuri and Akshaye are rarely paired on film and it is easy to see why. There’s just no chemistry between them despite her fancy dancing and his good hair and smoldering glances. And his supposedly “melting” glance left me cold—reminded me of a hurt puppy, and not in a good way.
However, the film is still fun to watch with its more or less even balance between comedy, romance and drama, and between Madhuri’s talent and Akshaye’s rather manic youth, the songs are energetically performed (if slightly generic).
The last third of the film is, unfortunately, so dramatic that it’s hilarious…and one of Shweta’s costumes in Gaurav’s dream-sequence song will make you giggle uncontrollably. Still, if you come across it, give it a try. It’s available free on YouTube, with subtitles.
Verdict on Akshaye: So-so. Not as good a performance as in Border. Fun to watch him dance, though.
Tune in later in the week for the next film in the mini-festival, Aa Ab Laut Chalen (“Come, Let’s Go Back,” 1999).